Monday, July 25

Caveat Emptor

I've been in brand marketing for a long long time now, and if there's anything I hate more it's when someone tries to rip off the market leader.  Here a brand spends years building its equity, to great success, only to have another brand come along and rip it off.  For years this has been happening from private label manufacturers who literally copy the market leader to the point where the consumer can't tell the difference.  Take a walk down the drug store aisle and you'll see what I mean.  It leaves the consumer often picking up the wrong product.

But I have to say that this little ditty takes the cake.  Stores are popping up in China that completely mimic Apple stores.  The look, feel, signage ... everything completely replicates the Apple store experience to the point where consumers think they are shopping in a full-fledged Apple store.  Even some of the employees think they are working for Apple!

Yahoo! covered the story last week, and my friend Ryan Drumwright turned me on to it.

Of course when you look closely, you see the cracks in the veneer.  The stair case is not quite right, there are chips in the walls -- the quality just isn't there.  And of course the sign says:  Apple Store, which Apple would never do, the real brand just uses its icon to communicate its branding.

This smacks of all the fake designer wear that can be bought at a fraction of the price -- cheap Louis Vuitton and Gucci knock-offs -- makes me so mad.  I got taken once myself, and I know this stuff!  Looks great until you look really closely.  As I said in my book, "get your own brand!"

I get it.  It's a free market, we can do what we want in business.  Caveat emptor, right?  But as a marketer, I hate it.  Brands create a promise and a trust that consumers rely upon.  If you can't be clever with your own brand, then go do something else.  Don't deceive loyal consumers ... leave my brand alone!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President of Lippe Taylor
Author of The Experience Effect


  1. I can’t stand to see companies rip off established brands; get your own ideas! Are there any copyright type laws that protect this type of infringement? Can a brand trademark it’s store layout? In music there’s tons of copyright laws to fight replicas but there’s always this battle of the “sound-a-like”. I get frustrated when I hear a song in a commercial that sounds just like a popular song when there’s so much music out there and composers with original ideas.

    I recently came across a case of a brand imitating another brand through a commercial and the use of a “sound-a-like” track:
    Chrysler premiered it’s “imported from Detroit” commercial during the Superbowl. This ad features Eminem and his track “Lose Yourself” accompanied by scenic shots of Detroit
    ( )
    This Audi spot uses an orchestral score that sounds very similar to “Loose Yourself” with a visual of their new car driving around Europe

    Eminem is willing to fight this copyright battle as he recently filed suit against Audi for the use of the music, but will and can Chrysler do anything about Audi ripping off their commercial?

  2. This story is so crazy to me! Lacey makes an excellent point in raising how far a brand's trademark really extends.

    It would seem to be a pretty narrow scope for a company to get away with this level of brand copying. Does something like a store layout really constitute a tangible, own-able element?

  3. It should! I've never understood why you can't trademark a design. The fashion industry is a great example. One of the designers creates an awesome new look and everyone else copies it. He gets street creds but they get the sales. I don't get why he can't copyright his work?? Jim.